Ex-director of gas firm pleads guilty following 2015 lab blast that killed chemist

SINGAPORE – The former govt director of an industrial gas provide firm linked to a 2015 deadly blast has admitted in a district court docket that he had did not take vital measures to make sure the protection of the corporate’s staff who have been working in a laboratory at its speciality gas centre.

The explosion, which ripped via Leeden National Oxygen’s laboratory in Tanjong Kling Road in Jurong on Oct 12, 2015, killed chemist Lim Siaw Chian.

The incident left seven others injured.

Gary Choo Pu Chang, 64, who had initially claimed trial to an offence below the Workplace Safety and Health Act, pleaded guilty on Monday (April 25).

In January final yr, Leeden National Oxygen was fined $340,000 and Mr Steven Tham Weng Cheong, who was the corporate’s managing director, was fined $45,000, over office security lapses.

The firm and Mr Tham, then 69, have been every convicted of an offence below the Act in December 2020.

Leeden National Oxygen was established on Oct 1, 2014, following the merger of two corporations – Leeden and National Oxygen.

Before the merger, Choo was National Oxygen’s deputy managing director and oversaw a number of departments, together with the laboratory.

After the merger, he grew to become the manager director of the brand new firm.

Choo resigned on Aug 12, 2015, two months earlier than the deadly blast on Oct 12 that yr.

Ministry of Manpower prosecutors Samuel Chua and Khong Zi-Wei said in court docket paperwork: “At the fabric time, (Ms Lim), who was employed as a chemist… was finishing up a gas evaluation on a gas cylinder within the laboratory.

“The initial explosion killed (Ms Lim) instantly and injured three of her colleagues, who were also working in the laboratory. The incident further resulted in injuries to four other employees of (Leeden National Oxygen).”

Earlier, The Straits Times reported that Ms Lim had returned to work from maternity go away per week earlier than the tragedy.

The former Malaysian had obtained her Singapore citizenship only a month earlier than she died.

Her charred stays have been discovered on six events over a two-month interval after the incident, and have been recognized utilizing her daughter’s DNA. Her child was six months previous on the time.

In 2016, then State Coroner Marvin Bay discovered Ms Lim’s loss of life to be an industrial misadventure.

The court docket heard on Monday that closed-circuit tv (CCTV) footage confirmed that the preliminary explosion occurred in the direction of the rear of the laboratory.

Ms Lim was final seen touching a regulatory valve meeting (RVA) linked to a gas cylinder beside a gas chromatography machine earlier than a vibrant mild appeared.

The CCTV footage then went clean.

A forensic evaluation later decided that the first failure was at an unqualified welded joint present in a stem of the RVA, which was connected to a valve of the cylinder.

The prosecutors stated: “The failure of the welded joint within the… stem of the RVA was discovered to have pre-existed however was not prudently checked earlier than utilization previous to the incident. The failure on the unqualified welded joint on the… stem of the incident RVA resulted in a leak of flammable methane-oxygen-nitrogen combine.

“The leak… led to an ignition caused by the spontaneous reaction of the leaking gas mixture in the presence of frictional heat generated due to the escaping gas mixture and internal sudden agitation of debris and particulate.”

The blast occurred quickly after and the court docket heard that some of the RVAs recovered from the laboratory have been later discovered to have been modified as nicely.

Among different issues, Choo had did not take fairly practicable measures to make sure that unsafe modified RVAs weren’t used within the laboratory when testing flamable gases.

The court docket heard that he had additionally failed to make sure that there was a system for the monitoring and upkeep of the RVAs used within the laboratory.

Choo will likely be sentenced this Friday.

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